Home Affairs decision to terminate Zim Exemption Permit declared unlawful, invalid and unconstitutional

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi. File Photo: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi. File Photo: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Jun 28, 2023


Pretoria - The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria declared Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s decision to terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) as unlawful, unconstitutional, and invalid.

The ruling was made on Wednesday after the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) challenged Motsoaledi’s decision, announced last year, to discontinue the special dispensation.

ZEP holders had about six months before their documentation to live and work in South Africa expired, and about 180,000 Zimbabwean nationals living in the country would have been affected.

The ZEP is a special permit that grants its holders and their children temporary legal status to live, work, and study in South Africa.

This was introduced by the government to cope with the influx of undocumented Zimbabweans.

In a judgment handed by three judges, it was held that Motsoaledi had made no attempt to get representations from those affected before he took the decision.

It was also found that his inability to consult with ZEP holders rendered the choice to end the program procedurally unfair and irrational.

Reacting to the judgment, the HSF said the judgment was of huge significance for ZEP holders who have lived in South Africa legally for almost fifteen years and found that they are entitled to a fair process, due consultation and clear reason.

The foundation has always held that Motsoaledi’s decision was based on, among other things, making a decision without consulting the public or ZEP holders, which deprived all of the protection afforded to them in terms of the Constitution.

“Today’s decision is remitted back to the Minister for fresh decision, following a fair process compliant with the requirements of administrative justice,” the HSF said.

Meanwhile, Motsoaledi has been directed to follow a fair process that complies with the law.

Following the judgment, permits will remain valid until June 2024.

Until then, ZEP holders will continue to enjoy protection, including the prohibition on deportation-related arrest and detention.